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Keeping Backyard Chickens

Laws about keeping chickens vary from state to state, county to county and town to town. Zoning regulations combine with the laws and bylaws of each area. These laws are all liable to change too, and local groups often campaign successfully to change local laws and make things easier for chicken keepers. Equally, a local mayor or council may change regulations to the detriment of people who want to keep backyard hens.

Chicks new hatched
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These are some of the key issues to be aware of, in addition to the points raised above:

  • Sometimes there is a simple limit – four chickens and no more, for example. More commonly, the number of fowl you can keep depends on the size of your plot, and the zone in which you are keeping the birds.
  • Many places limit the keeping of livestock to official agriculturally-designated zones.
  • Most locations do not allow the keeping of roosters, but there are many exceptions.
  • In cities it is often a requirement to keep hens in a coop at all times – i.e. they are not allowed to live free range.
  • The coop itself is often required to pass local building regulations - choosing a high quality Eglu Chicken Coop will help here.
  • Where permits are required, these are usually payable annually.
  • In cities it is usually the case that coops must be a certain distance from neighboring dwellings and roads.
  • It is illegal to slaughter chickens in most residential areas.
  • You will need to check the small print of the ordinances if you want to sell eggs.
  • Almost every urban and suburban setting has laws relating to noise, nuisance, odor and pests - mainly rats. The rodents love taking up residence close to – often under – a chicken coop, (just like Templeton in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web!).
  • An attorney who deals with zoning and ordinance cases can offer more guidance - this is especially useful if the information you have uncovered seems contradictory or ambiguous.

Things To Check Before You Buy Chickens

  • Zoning Laws and Ordinances: These dictate how a property can be used – or, more to the point, not used.
  • Restrictive covenants and Homeowners Association Rules: These are clauses in property deeds limiting the uses of that property. They will sometimes make poultry-keeping a non-starter, although usually they simply limit the number of birds that can be kept, and restrict commercial poultry activities.
  • Lease restrictions: Rented properties often have limitations on the pets and livestock that can be kept on the premises.
  • Building codes: Chicken coop design may be subject to the stern gaze of local planning officers.

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Vic, 11 April 2021

Our neighbors a couple doors down have chickens and they let them run free. I can’t even let my dog out. My husband went and talk to them but they Don’t speak English. So how can I prevent this from happening and what happens if my dog eats one

Ron, 24 February 2020

My neighbors have at least a dozen chicken hens and 1 rooster. Which they let roam freely even when they are gone. Day and night. They come in our yard. We can't even let our dog run in our own yard because of the chickens being there. We have spoken with them several xs They just say well this is Kentucky. What can We do legally to keep there chickens out of Our yard/property? What laws do the neighbors with the chickens need to follow and abide by? ThankYou. God bless!

Martha, 5 February 2020

Chickens roaming in my yard,no one claims ownership.Can I give them away?

Leslie, 31 August 2019

My neighbor has a chicken coop but never keeps her chickens in it. They are constantly in my yard and my dog killed some of them. Shouldn't she have to keep them in the coop and out of my yard?

Susan, 25 June 2019

My neighbor recently got chickens which is fine but they allow them to run loose all day and they leave the property and go into the street and have come into my yard. My three terriers are not happy and I’m afraid they may eventually catch and kill one when it comes over. Are they allowed to run loose like that?